Have you ever encountered a ‘thin place’?
Ancient Celts held the view, and latter-day ones, and others, still hold the view, that there exist places, times and events where the separation between here and the Other, that veil, that threshold to the spiritual realm, is unusually ‘thin’ and can be touched, encountered, felt, experienced. They called them ‘thin places, and they still exist today, and you can experience them.
In one sense, the ancient celts never ‘suffered’ with dualism as we do, and so it seems odd to speak of here and the Other. Perhaps, a way forward is to understand that that oneness always exists, but for us – never always aware, but knowing that we need to wake up again and again – we need to be aware of that unity, and that opportunity or re-awakening to oneness is for us, a ‘thin place’!
So, a ‘thin place’ or caol áit (a Celtic/Gaelic word, pronounced ‘kweel awtch’) is a time, place or event where we are aware of the closeness of the Other.
Throughout the United Kingdom there are places described as holy or sacred by others – not just religious buildings, but, more than likely old oak or yew trees (some hundreds of years old), streams or valleys, standing stones and many other notable places which have been (and still, are) visited by celts (ancient and latter-day) and other spiritual pilgrims, such as fellow-Druid friends, and Wiccan friends etc. And, it’s not only rural areas where these ‘thin places’ can be experienced. I’ve experienced ‘thin places’ near Capel Curig in the wilderness that is north Wales, but also at Waterloo Station, London, and at Glastonbury, and a few other towns and cities, instance. Ofcourse, what is true for the UK is the same for other countries, too.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling, in words, as to what to expect at a ‘thin place’ place [sic], but you’ll know you’ve found one when you’ve found one. For me, they indicate their presence as a place where deep thought is easier to achieve, where meditative silence seems altogether deeper, and where in the deep recesses of the psyche the Presence is felt, almost as a palpable entity, and the Voice is heard as a real but distant echo.
There could be times in your life when ‘thin places’ occur for a short period and then disappear. These are times to be cherished – savour them, revel in them, give thanks for them. It is often tempting to go back to such places when they happened ‘in time’ and repeat what you did when one encountered a temporal ‘thin place, but they are fleeting, and no amount of repetition will ‘conjure’ one up. However, I do believe that such ‘in time’ ‘thin places’ will occur again, and are probably more frequent that we realise, so don’t be overly concerned. The knack, then, is to be constantly aware of their likelihood. Be ready. Be vigilant. Be expectant.
And, then there are meaningful events. ‘Thin places’ may be encountered at various events, such as at the birth of a baby, when a baby smiles, at the passing on of a loved one, or at the announcement of some amazing or traumatic event, an impending storm, when we view beauty, for example. All of these can be the ‘judder’ that we experience in life that speaks of, and points to That Which Is Bigger, through the encounter of a’thin place’; and then time seems to stand still and we’re ‘catapulted’ into a higher reality.
Indeed, part of my work with clients involves ushering them into the Imaginal realm, and that too is a form of ‘thin place’, but often called liminality (a crossing of the threshold). In that sense, it is a case of being aware, being intentional, and putting ourselves in the way of a possible ‘thin place’ encounter, and the benefits are out of this world.
So, have you experienced a ‘thin place’ – a place, time, or event where the gap between here and the Other has been unusually ‘thin’?
Here’s a poem I wrote some time ago about ‘thin places’:
Atop a high mountain or in the dark valley below,
in the corner of your room, or in the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre,
may you find a ‘thin place’.
A place, or time, or event so unique, so full of wonder, so sublime.
A place where Heaven and earth collide,
and the diaphanous veil of separation is unusually thin.
A time where you can almost feel angelic wings beat against your cheeks,
and see the Divine smile shining through.
An event where your heartbeat quickens,
and you experience the mystery of the Other in the mundane.
A ‘thin place’ is a threshold, a limen, a holy bridge,
a door to the Throne Room, slightly opened.
It is a moment in time and space,
in which we can dwell, and dance, and move, if aware.
A ‘thin place’ is an encouragement, a sacred invitation to draw near,
to approach barefoot, in humility, in reverence and awe.
It is both seen and unseen.
Invisible we see you!
May you, in the wilderness of the countryside or the city, find a ‘thin place’ today,
and be blessed.
Do contact me if you’ve experienced a ‘thin place’, or would like too? As regards the latter, part of my work as an anamcara [gaelic/Celtic for ‘soul friend’] is to work with discerning men and women who want to obtain answers to questions, discover more (about themselves), grow, mature and/or be transformed, and would like to encounter such ‘thin places’ via the Imaginal realm, using creative visualisation/active imagination, wherever they are.